Published December 19, 2002
NEW YORK – A civic group concerned with rebuilding lower Manhattan said Thursday that while the new designs for the World Trade Center site were inspiring, the process for deciding what will be built there is flawed.
"It was a great deal of form without any relationship to the function or the process," said Ron Shiffman, a professor of architecture at the Pratt Institute.
Shiffman and others at the Civic Alliance to Rebuild Downtown's news conference said it was difficult to judge the plans presented Wednesday by seven teams of architects without knowing how much commercial space will be built at the trade center site -- and who is deciding that.
Beverly Willis, co-founder of a community group called Rebuild Downtown Our Town, said great architecture requires a great client.
"Do we have a great client?" Willis asked. "I don't know who the client is. I think the client's the governor."
Gov. George Pataki controls key appointments to the boards of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the trade center site, and the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., which has been charged with redeveloping it.
The two agencies, which together will choose a final plan by Jan. 31, instructed the architects who unveiled their designs Wednesday to plan for 6.5 million to 10 million square feet of office space on the 16-acre site.
The teams of architects from around the world offered a dazzling array of designs, several of which included towers that would be the tallest buildings in the world.
The architects were not required to provide cost estimates with their presentations, but several of them said Thursday that their plans were flexible enough to be feasible whether there is a demand for 10 million square feet of office space or not.
Frederic Schwartz, a member of the THINK team, which offered three plans, said all the plans -- including a World Cultural Center consisting of twin lattice-work towers -- are defined by their cultural and public space and could be built with or without their accompanying office buildings.
Rebuilding officials had said earlier that the final plan might incorporate aspects of several of the designs. But Louis Tomson, president of the development corporation, said Thursday that something based on one of the nine plans will be built.
"I loved them all," he said. "I'm floored by the response of these architects."